I am a PhD student in computer science, and chose to specialize in a research area that was interesting to me personally, but not interesting to most tech companies. I am approaching graduation and I am not sure where to find a job. What do I do now?

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    Have you tried applying? A PhD in Computer Science is a serious accomplishment. Many tech companies would be glad to have you (even if they have nothing to do with the research you did). Jan 11, 2017 at 2:48
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    People with just bachelor's degrees generally find jobs in CS with no serious problems; you are no worse than them, to say the least. Do not be discouraged, but at the same time, do not be "snobby" and think that certain positions are beneath you. Just apply widely, and I am sure that you'll find a job. Good luck!
    – Sana
    Jan 11, 2017 at 7:15
  • Can you provide the actual sub-field? I highly doubt that you won't find any job in any sub-field of computer science. It might not be "every company needs a developer" but it won't be "no one needs a quantum computer."
    – Compass
    Jan 11, 2017 at 16:02
  • CS PhD students can specialize in research areas that are interesting to most tech companies? (Ha ha only serious.)
    – JeffE
    Jan 12, 2017 at 2:46

2 Answers 2


The specialised research area of your PhD topic probably has a wider range of related fields which are relevant to prospective employers. I suggest identify those fields and use them to build your own resume, and also to identify prospective employers. Search those terms in job sites and identify employers that way.

Unless committed to specifically continue research in a focused line of investigation, then in most cases, I believe that job seekers in your position are really looking for work which utilises the broader skills that they have generated through their post-graduate degree. Try to take a step back to think of the skills you have gained.

The more generalised skills such as general subject knowledge, investigation, research community networking and research are more likely to be of value to your prospective employer than your expertise in your own specific topic.


In most cases, people don't specifically use their PhD after graduation (unless they go on to work for a university or government research department). Most people don't even directly use their Bachelor degree. So your problem isn't the end of the world.

The first year of work usually consists of your workplace showing you how they do things, and you learning their methods and procedures, their ways of dealing with clients, and solving problems that university didn't prepare you for.

So sell yourself as someone who works well with people, is willing to continue learning, and is humble enough to work under others without assuming you know everything just because you have a PhD.

Also, don't expect to skip the lower paid positions straight to the top due to your education; the Bachelor degree graduate who has been at the company for 4 years while you studied your PhD has probably picked up a lot of company knowledge and is more useful than you will be in your first month. You'll likely get a bit of a wage boost over a bachelor graduate, but not straight to the top. Set your expectations appropriately and workplaces will be more willing to give you a shot.

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    "In most cases, people don't specifically use their PhD after graduation" - do you have evidence to support this claim? I'd be interested in seeing it. Is this true for computer science, which is the OP's field?
    – ff524
    Jan 11, 2017 at 8:04
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    @ff524 I don't have evidence at hand, but I am convinced that this statement is true for CS and for graduates that go to industry. I work in a very applied field (Software Engineering), and I can think of exactly one colleague who went to industry and is applying what he learned specifically in his PhD in his company. Everybody else is doing jobs that any strong graduate from a different subdiscipline of CS could have also gotten into.
    – xLeitix
    Jan 11, 2017 at 9:28
  • @xLeitix I think you and I are interpreting "use your PhD" differently (given the proximity to the statement about undergrad degrees, which are not so specialized, I was interpreting "your PhD" to include not just the specific research topic). Hopefully Sir Adelaide can come back and edit this post to clarify this.
    – ff524
    Jan 11, 2017 at 9:33
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    @ff524: I do not have data for CS, but mathematics is close to large parts of CS. If you did a Ph.D. in pure mathematics, you have virtually no chance of applying your research in industry, but your job prospects are pretty good. Two friends of me became actuarians after doing a Ph.D. in logic and representation theory, respectively. Jan 11, 2017 at 10:16

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